9 Common Mistakes New Leaders Make with Delegating (and How to Fix Them)
You can use many tools to grow your business and make it work at maximum efficiency, but perhaps the most critical tool at your disposal is effective delegation.
Delegating tasks enables you to have more freedom in your business while improving its productivity. Regardless of the size of your business or organization, you need to adopt this invaluable skill and avoid common mistakes.
Mistake #1: Not Delegating to Your Team
When it comes to delegation, the most common mistake for new leaders may be failing to do so at all. Having a team of employees or subordinates is key for taking on projects and heavy workloads that will push your organization closer to its goals, so why would a leader not delegate to their team?
There are usually a few underlying reasons why a manager or business owner fails to delegate tasks, but it often involves some level of uneasiness and uncertainty. Giving up some level of control over a project can feel daunting, but it’s essential to use all of the resources at your disposal, and other people are necessary for taking on tough tasks and projects.
Additionally, those who struggle to delegate often have the mentality that in order to get something done well, they need to do it themselves. They might also act as if they enjoy doing everything. This is a far less effective approach to leadership than strategic delegation.
Solution: Accept That You Can’t Do Everything
No matter how skilled or hard of a worker you are, you can never accomplish as much as a team of competent professionals.
The most effective leaders and business entrepreneurs are willing to give up some degree of control to get more done. You don’t have all of the time in the world and energy to complete tasks and projects. Develop a team mindset based on effective delegation rather than the lone wolf “I can do everything myself” mentality to maximize your efficiency.
Mistake #2: Lacking Vision and Not Understanding the Task at Hand
The next mistake new leaders often make is having a lack of direction and understanding when delegating tasks. One especially common problem during the delegation process is a leader assigning a task without fully understanding what they’re asking of their subordinates and the overarching goals.
Although you should delegate and avoid taking on too many tasks, you should have a clear direction for the work that you delegate. Depending on your employee’s skill level and experience, they may be able to complete work without much of your input, but you should still share a common vision and explicit understanding of the task.
For example, if you’re allocating a design task for an in-house graphic designer, they will likely know a lot more about the design process and creating a professional composition, but you should still have a clear understanding and vision for what your company needs. In this case, you may want to give instructions regarding the overall goals of the design.
Solution: Ask Yourself Why the Task Matters and Have a Clear Goal
Don’t lose sight of the “why” within your project when delegating. Going back to the graphic design example, why does this design matter? What are you trying to say or accomplish with this composition? How does the graphic benefit your company?
You need a clear direction and understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish for your company so that you can convey this vision to your team members.
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Mistake #3: Delegating Tasks That Aren’t Suitable for Your Employees
When delegating, it’s critical to know your team, including their experience, skill sets, and current workloads. Not everyone is suited for the same tasks within a project, and just because an employee has time to take on a particular task doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best fit for the challenge at hand.
For example, if you need to delegate a sales strategy task, you must first consider your employee’s experience, skills, and time. Throwing someone into the deep end with challenging tasks can sometimes be an excellent way for them to grow — more on that later — but this isn’t always the most effective way to get work done.
If you’re delegating tasks to a sales team, perhaps certain team members are more effective at closing deals rather than coming up with overarching strategies. In this case, you may want to delegate the task to someone more strategy-minded.
Solution: Consider the Individual Skills and Workloads of Your Employees
Every worker is incredibly different and has unique skills, strengths, weaknesses, and workflows, so you need to consider these distinctions to delegate suitable tasks.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with getting an employee out of their comfort zone by assigning something unfamiliar to them, but you also need to consider the overall time frame of the project. Some team members will work faster and better at certain tasks than others, and some of your employees may already have too great of a workload to handle additional responsibilities.
Don’t lose sight of your team members’ unique qualities and skills.
Mistake #4: Being Too Hands-On or Too Hands-Off
It can be challenging to know how hands-on to be with employees. You don’t want to fall into the trap of micromanagement, but you also don’t want to be too hands-off with employees who don’t yet have the skills, experience, or motivation to complete specific tasks.
Again, this has a lot to do with considering the individual qualities of your employees, and you also need to gauge your subordinates’ overall interest in the project.
If you’re working with newer employees, they’ll likely have less experience and understanding when working on more complex challenges. If you allow them more autonomy, they could do important tasks incorrectly, or they may become discouraged during the process, impacting their overall motivation to get the job done.
Solution: Use Situational Leadership and Provide Guidance When Needed
Fortunately, there’s an effective model you can use to determine how hands-on you need to be with your subordinates: the Situational Leadership Theory. Dr. Paul Hersy and Dr. Ken Blanchard developed this model at Cornell University, and it involves gauging your employees’ motivation/interest and knowledge to determine your delegation approach.
When employees have lower motivation levels and lack knowledge, you need to be more detailed with your instructions and provide more oversight than you would with more experienced employees. In this case, you may need more of a step-by-step approach to having them execute tasks.
If your employees are motivated and interested but don’t yet have the knowledge and skills to complete tasks effectively, it’s the leader’s job to praise them for their work while also helping them along the way and correcting their mistakes.
In the event that your employees are knowledgeable and skilled but lack interest in the project, you need to be involved in order to motivate them. You can basically sell the project so that employees see why it matters. Perhaps this means explaining the “why” behind the project or helping them understand how they’ll grow professionally through the process.
Once employees are motivated and knowledgeable, you can become more hands-off and allow them greater autonomy during the process.
Mistake #5: Micromanaging the Team
As discussed above, it’s beneficial to guide and motivate employees who may lack sufficient knowledge or interest in the task at hand. Still, it’s critical to avoid the trap of micromanagement.
Just because an employee is new doesn’t mean they’re clueless. If you baby them through the process, employees can become discouraged and less motivated to complete their tasks and grow in their positions.
One common way new leaders micromanage their team is by insisting that everything be done in a specific way. Although your company may have procedures that employees must follow for accomplishing particular tasks, not every assignment should be done in the exact same way, and this is especially the case with more complex or creative tasks.
Even brand-new employees can sometimes provide groundbreaking insights for approaching tasks. If you stifle their unique process, you’ll hinder their professional development while potentially missing out on their valuable contributions.
Additionally, micromanaging is time-consuming. You delegate tasks to create more efficiency in your organization, so if you hover too closely over your employees, you’ll likely have a lot less time to accomplish your own work.
Solution: Keep an Open Mind and Allow Your Team Members to Take Their Own Unique Approaches
You may need to guide inexperienced employees, but don’t insist they do everything as you would.
Instead, you can guide them by informing them what you think is the best approach, then allow them to work in their own way. Some employees may need more explicit step-by-step directions at first — as we discussed above — but don’t force your own method for getting things done. Everyone works differently, and your employees’ processes may differ entirely from yours.
Additionally, if your employees are more knowledgeable and motivated about the project, give them the authority to work unimpeded. You can schedule regular check-ins to see their progress, but there’s no point in working over their shoulders. Hovering too closely is detrimental to efficiency and will ultimately hinder the project.
Mistake #6: Not Explicitly Expressing Expectations and Desired Outcomes
When delegating, it’s crucial to tell your subordinates the overall expectations and clear instructions for the tasks. Effective delegation is all about clear communication — if you need something done in a particular way, you need to tell your team.
Let’s go back to the graphic design example again. If you delegate a task to a graphic designer and you intend to use the finished product at a corporate event, you need to convey the overall expectations and requirements of the design. You’re not going to tell the graphic designer how to do their job, but you should convey the goal for the design and any necessary components required, such as incorporating the company logo.
Solution: Be Clearer with Instructions and Expectations
Clarity is always essential in the delegation process, and you should resist assuming that you and your team members are on the same page about the finished product. When assigning a task, overcommunication is always better than under-communication.
Additionally, be sure to communicate your check-ins and deadlines for the project.
Mistake #7: Failing to Check In With Your Team
As you delegate to more experienced and reliable workers, you may be tempted to be completely hands-off. Although it’s good to trust your team and allow them autonomy, you should still schedule regular meetings or brief check-ins to ensure everyone is on task and on the same page for achieving success.
Solution: Trust But Verify
It’s important to be clear about your scheduled meetings or informal check-ins when delegating, and you should also communicate the expected rate of progress. Regular check-ins also allow you to celebrate your team’s progress, which can continue motivating them to the finish line. Don’t hesitate to praise your individual team members for their accomplishments during the process, especially when they do an exceptional job.
This is especially important when you have difficulty motivating your subordinates to care about their tasks.
Mistake #8: Ignoring Employee Growth During the Process
Although delegating tasks typically means that your primary goal is to get more work done or complete a project in less time, you shouldn’t exclusively focus on output and productivity. You can use the delegation process to strengthen your team and encourage growth.
When you’re only focused on productivity, your employees’ interest and motivation for taking on tough tasks can waver, but when you position tasks as a way for subordinates to develop professionally, you make their assignments much more than a to-do list — it becomes an avenue for growth.
Solution: Provide Room for Growth
The delegation process should be about more than just working efficiently — it’s also about giving your people opportunities to grow professionally.
Rather than only caring about checking boxes and accomplishing tasks, you can take a moment in your check-ins to focus on how the tasks are enhancing your team’s knowledge and professional skills.
Additionally, look for specific opportunities for professional development among your team members. Perhaps some of your employees are beginning to feel stagnant in their professional growth. If so, you can delegate tasks that help them continue developing.
Going back to the sales team example in Mistake #3, maybe it’s time to assign more strategy-based tasks to sales members who don’t have that strategy-focused professional experience.
Use delegation as a way to strengthen and develop your team members.
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Mistake #9: Not Being Willing to Give or Receive Feedback
Constructive criticism is an essential part of both your growth as a leader and the professional development of your individual team members.
If you’re unwilling to hear feedback about how you can improve as a leader, you’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, and that includes mistakes within the delegation process.
Additionally, if there are issues with how some of your team members are completing tasks, you need to correct their mistakes and give them feedback for improvements. This can sometimes feel awkward, but it’s necessary for your organization and your subordinate’s professional development.
Solution: Be Open to Feedback and Be Willing to Give It
Everyone has room to grow, so receiving constructive criticism from your team isn’t an attack on your character. You can improve as a leader by being open to feedback. You may be completely unaware of areas where you still have room for improvement.
For example, maybe you’re good at offering concise instructions, but you have trouble communicating the overarching goals of your projects. Once you learn where you can improve, you can work on becoming a more effective leader.
Additionally, be willing to offer your team members feedback to help them grow professionally. Although it may be challenging to offer constructive criticism to your team members, especially when they’re working hard, it will help them grow going forward, making the experience far more beneficial.
Learn More About Great Delegation Tools
Becoming a master delegator can feel challenging at times, but the more you do it, the more you’ll be able to improve. Once you hone these skills, you’ll be able to create a more seamless, productive workflow while also helping your team members achieve their professional goals.
If you’re interested in learning more about the delegation process and other critical tools for leaders and entrepreneurs, you can view other great articles here on our site. Additionally, we recommend checking out Forbes and Fast Company for additional leadership guidance.
You are more than capable of becoming an EFFECTIVE leader. Cheers to you on your journey toward creating a more robust and effective organization!